Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blog Tour - In High Places

This week's CFBA blog tour feature is In High Places, by Tom Morrisey.

It is always interesting to see the type of books we get for the blog tour. We have gotten a wide variety of choices, and we've read a lot of good books. Some weren't my favorite. If you can tell, I don't tend to read the romances or "chick-lit" books (either I use the CFBA blurb or have my wife review). Sometimes we get an unexpected gem in all of the books we read.

In High Places is told from the point of view of Patrick Nolan, a teenager who is an only child. He and his father share a very strong bond - a love of rock climbing. The book opens as they are on a climb at Seneca Rocks, a well-known haven for climbers located in West Virginia. Their return home reveals a tragedy that pushes his father to distract himself in possibly destructive ways and threatens to destroy the strong bond that holds them together.

I read a lot of glowing reviews before I was able to dig into this book. It took a little effort to really get into it, but I encourage readers to stick with it. He spends a lot of time describing the scenes of rock climbing, carefully discussing equipment and technique. It is a foreign activity to me, and although it was interesting, I wasn't engaged at first.

There is some excitement in the climbing scenes that occurs early on, but this isn't an adventure novel. It is a novel of the heart, and it takes the person of Rachel Ransom, a young woman Patrick meets about 100 pages into the book. This dynamic transforms the book and made it a delightful read for me. I've seen other books with characters like Rachel in them (I don't want to describe her too much, I hate reviews that give the story away), but I don't get tired of them. There's something magical in the way Morrisey treats the new twist that brings the novel home. I guess it is the threshold of the novel for me.

The writing is carefully crafted. I corresponded with Morrisey a little after reading the book, and he said he was striving for a different style from what he had written before. I haven't read any of his adventure/suspense works that preceded this, but I would hazard a guess that he is successful in his attempt. The book reminds me of another coming-of-age tale, Bad Ground by Dale Cramer. That book was widely acclaimed in circles I run in, so it is a compliment.

One other literary trick from the book deserves mention. Note the intro of each chapter - he gives a brief description of climbing equipment or technique which becomes symbolic of the flow for the chapter.

Overall this is a highly enjoyable book to read. The slow start is not a negative in my mind; the story is kind of a slow burn, not hurrying to its destination. But if you find yourself stymied at all, persevere, because the book is a reward at the end of it all.

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